Who killed the Electric Car, and similar examples.

I recently watched the documentary "Who Killed The Electric Car It was pretty interesting, frustrating and a little depressing.

In discussing it my brother in law said it’s and old story. I remember owning a Chevy Sprint that had a 3 cylinder rotary engine. I got over 50 mpg on the highway it was great. Where are they now? Especially now.

Any other examples of good technology that was on the market and working that companies did away with because it simply didn’t make them enough profit?

or, comments on the Electric Car DVD. Any dopers remember them, lease one?

The Stonecutters.

Not a rotary (Wankel), plain old recip. They are in the boneyards now. I would drive a car like that.

I remember electric cars, my company had several. I couldn’t see the point in having a car that could go only 40 or so miles between charges. As for the Sprint and cars like it, no one seems to want a car that small anymore.

Nor is it a big profit item for automakers, unlike SUVs based upon truck platforms that are inexpensive to produce and command $30k+ pricetags.

GM “killed” the EV1 in large part because it just wasn’t profitable for them. Had they sold the cars, they would have been liable to continue to produce parts and provide service, as well as dealing with numerous recall-level warranty issues with the vehicle. For a large automaker like GM whose bread-and-butter are cheap sedans and large trucks, it just wasn’t a worthwhile endeavor, other than to point at it and say, “We tried it and it didn’t work.”

To the o.p.'s question, the classic example are the multiple technologies developed at the famed PARC which parent company Xerox decided weren’t profitable, including the computer mouse, windowing graphical user interface, optical disc storage technology, et cetera.


Consumers killed the electric car. We didn’t want them, not at that price and performance anyway. The same can be said for a lot of items in a capitalistic society; the market chooses the products.

Rotary engines don’t have cylinders, so my guess would be only in your head, dear.

Pyroceram, aka Corningware. The original Corningware was a glass-based super-hard cookware that was darn near indestructible; before it was used in the kitchen, pyroceram was used for missile nose cones!

Problem was, sales slowed down when just about everyone who wanted Corningware already had some, and the rugged stuff almost never broke, so there was no repeat business. So, they sold out to World Kitchen, who stopped making the stuff with pyroceram and started cranking out a more-easily-breakable stoneware product under the “Corningware” name. Currently no one makes cookware out of pyroceram.

Your Chevy Sprint would not meet current safety or emission standards. However there are several high mileage cars that are out there on the market.
Prius, Yaris, Fit to name three.

Isn’t this what “Ceran” stovetops are made from?

cosmosdan, I’m going to disagree, respectfully, with your assertion that the electric car was good product killed by the company making it.

Even the most ardent supporters of the electric car admit that the current technology for batteries is very vulnerable to below freezing temperatures. I don’t mean that they break by being frozen, nor even that they’ll freeze in normal sub-zero conditions. But their performance is severely degraded by cold weather.

Similarly, the nominal range of an electric car is degraded a lot, if the area it’s being used in is especially hilly.

These two facts about the electric car mean, to me, that for current technology, the electric car had only a limited market area within the US. Which excludes the entire Northeast - a traditional home for many of the people who would have been most likely consumers for the product.

When one adds the legitimate concerns about environmental liability from the batteries - manufacturing, accident disposal, life-time obsolescence disposal, and remanufacturing, and the fact that the cars AIUI never seemed to sell enough, even with the huge tax breaks associated with them, to be profitable for the company making them - I’m not surprised it died.

Additionally, I think that while most people will admit that they do 90-95% of all their driving within the 70 mile nominal range of an electric car - most people cannot afford to have one car for local use, only, and one for longer travel. The obvious solution would be to rent a vehicle for the rare long distance trip, but I think that most US drivers would find that a huge hassle - esp. when they already own a car.

Another problem with electrics was battery life. Rechargeable batteries will eventually wear out, and they are very expensive to replace. People who bought the EV1 (instead of just leasing it) would have been screaming mad if their car got to be 5 years old, and suddenly they had to spend $1000 or more to replace the batteries.

Yes, but no one makes cookware out of the stuff. No casseroles, ramekins, kettles, or the like. Cooktops don’t get dropped.

Read Jay Leno’s account (NYTIMES) of his 1905 BAKER Electric car-cool! The interesting thing: the range is about the same as a modern electric car. Despite 100 years of R&D, batteries haven’t improved all that much. So I don’t see a market for all-electric cars until the range improves , to at least 300 miles/charge.

Ahhh, that would explain the old CW roasting pan that I’ve got - this thing is thin - it actually feels like enameled metal, unlike the current stuff that’s got some thickness to it, and when I dropped it a few months ago, it bounced off the floor.

Consumers killed the electric car
Consumers killed the electric car
In my mind and in my car, electric power didn’t get me far
Oh-a-aho oh
Oh-a-aho oh

Most of Bucky Fullers inventions got quashed before they entered into production.

When I was a kid, you could buy zinc air batteries. These things would last for forever as they were basically self-recharging. One day they all just disappeared from the store shelves and I’ve not seen them since. :frowning:

Most likely meant “radial” rather than rotary. While the classic examples are airplane engines, a Harley Davidson motorcycle engine is a two cylinder radial (multiple cylinders in one plane, driving a single throw crank)

It’s not that the weight/stored power in batteries haven’t improved–they have, dramatically–it’s that consumers now expect a vehical to go 70mph+ instead of 20mph.

Most of Buckminster Fuller’s inventions were crap, or at least, were designed without proper consideration to many factors like control, stability, and ergnomics. Consider the Dymaxion car, which became unstable at highway speeds, or the geodesic dome house, which essentially acts like a large sound reflector, has poor natural ventiliation unless you leave it completely open, and because of the pitch angle of the upper flanges and the enormous number of angled joints tends to leak under heavy rain or snow. Some of his concepts were very useful in engineering and science, but his actual inventions were frequently unworkable, at least in the form that he imagined them.


Still wrong, the engine in that car was an inline 3.